Tuesday, August 23, 2011

M K Pandhe

20th August 2011
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) lost its most beloved leader Dr M K Pandhe who was also the tallest leader of the Indian Trade Union movement of the time. Dr Pandhe died on 20th August 2011 at early hours (00-20 hrs) following a massive heart attack. He was 86 years. CITU expresses its profound grief at the demise of Com Pandhe.

Comrade Pandhe’s public life spread over seven decades beginning as a student movement activist in his early youth and he continued to remain fully active, agile and concerned as one in the thick of the working class and the Left movement, till the last hours of his eventful life, totally undaunted by ageing problems and failing health. Sufferings from cancer and all the hazards of treatment and accompanying complications could not deter him in the least from his activities spreading over the length and breadth of the country across sectors. The country’s toiling class lost a dedicated fighter for the cause of their emancipation.

He joined the communist movement in 1943 and played a frontline role in asserting the role of the working class in the fight for social transformation and emancipating the people from all kinds of exploitation. He was elected in Polit Bureau of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1998 and continued in that position till his death.

His singular contribution in the trade union movement and organizing and leading the workers in the strategic sector of industries had been unparalleled. Also crucial had been his contribution in organizing the workers in the unorganized sector and also emphasising the working women’s role in the trade union movement.

He had been national secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) in the early sixties and was one of the founder leaders of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the organization which he steered as one of the most frontline centres of the working class movement. He had been General Secretary of CITU from 1991 to 2003 and remained President from 2003 to 2010.

Comrade Pandhe had always been the champion of broadest unity of the working class in the struggle on common issues. In the phase of coming together of all trade unions of different affiliations in the united platform on common issues and unleashing of the era of joint struggle of trade unions on national scale in the late seventies, the untiring effort of Comrade Pandhe has played the most crucial role. Com Pandhe commanded high respect and acceptability as a towering leader in the entire trade union circles irrespective of affiliations.

Com Pandhe was also widely known and respected in the international arena of trade union movement. His initiative has led to widening the international relations of CITU in a big way. He had been the Co-President of International Energy and Miners’ Organisation (IEMO) which had been a joint international platform of energy and mining workers worldwide irrespective of affiliations.

His firm commitment to working class ideology and to anti-imperialism had always been the guide to CITU in organizing the united movement and exposing the capitalist order. His untiring initiative and able leadership in this direction has contributed immensely both in developing and maintaining continuity in the united platform of struggle against neoliberal policies since 1991 which got further broadened to all in unity of the trade union movement in the joint struggle since 2009.

He had been a prolific writer as well. He had written innumerable pamphlets on the issues facing the trade union movement and on the economic policy issues. His booklet titled “Policies of liberalization- attack on Economic Sovereignty” published in 1991, translated in all Indian languages and circulated in several lakhs throughout the country became the talking points on the disastrous policy of liberalization, privatization and globalization for all trade union activists and organizers irrespective of affiliations in the anti-LPG joint struggles. Also notable had been his pamphlets on ‘Fraudulent Price Index”, “Global Economic Crisis” , “on Employees Pension Scheme” and his regular contributions in trade union journals almost on almost all issues facing the working class movement.

Despite being the tallest leader of the working class movement, he was accessible to all including the common workers. His simple life-style and utmost simplicity will always be remembered. In fact his unflinching commitment to working class, indomitable zeal to work and organize, strong conviction on the urgency for developing class leadership, great intellectual capacity to penetrate and down-to-earth approach to communicate and interact with people made made him the tallest leader of the country’s trade union movement.

Com Pandhe is no more. His demise is a severe loss to the country’s working class movement. CITU pledges to carry forward his mission in his cherished direction, while condoling his death and conveying condolences to his wife Com Pramila Pandhe and other family members.



Loss of Two Champions of working class

Tribute to Chaturanan Mishra
One of the tallest leaders of the Communist Party in Bihar, Chaturanan Mishra, who was the Union Agriculture Minister in the governments of both H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral in 1996-98, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi around noon on July 2, 2011. A former President of the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), he was ailing for quite sometime but the end came rather suddenly. He was admitted to the AIIMS the previous day and put on a ventilator; however, he could not be revived. He is survived by his wife, four daughters and a son, besides several grandchildren.
His last rites were performed at the Capital’s Nigambodh Ghat before a large crowd of relatives, friends, comrades. The body was kept for sometime at the CPI headquarters, Ajoy Bhavan, before the final journey to the crematorium. Born on April 7, 1925 at Nahar village of Madhubani district, Chaturanan Mishra plunged into the vortex of the freedom struggle in his student days and was imprisoned twice for participating in that struggle. He joined the ‘Quit India’ movement of 1942 and was jailed for that reason; it was then that he sustained serious injuries in Derbhanga jail. Like his colleague and comrade-in-arms, Bhogendra Jha, former MP and the indisputable mass leader of Madhubani, he too came into the communist movement from the Congress.
The CPI was founded in Bihar by such stalwarts as Rahul Sankrityayan, B.B. Mishra, Sunil Mukherjee, Ratan Ray, Shyamal Kumar Jha. In course of time it was enriched by the entry into the party of Yogendra Sharma, Ali Ashraf, Jagannath Sarkar, Indradeep Sinha, Chandrasekhar Singh from the Congress Socialist Party; and Karyanand Sharma, Bhogendra Jha and Chaturanan Mishra from the Congress. With Mishraji’s demise (Jagannath Sarkar breathed his last in April 2011), almost all the Communist leaders of yester-years have departed. (Those from that generation who are still alive include historian Dr R.S. Sharma and CPI-M leader Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi; even UCPI leader Krishna Chandra Choudhury is no more.)
In 1944 he migrated to south Bihar (now Jharkhand) with the party deputing him for trade union work there. As he narrates in the following interview, “I spent the next twentyfive years in Giridih and Hazaribagh struggling for the cause of mine labourers and highlighting pertinent social issues.” He also says: “It was a great learning experience and my longest journey so far—in socio-cultural terms; it was a sort of metamorphosis for me.” His popularity among the tribals and workers there was manifest in his being elected from the Giridih constituency thrice—in 1969, 1972 and 1979. He also served as the deputy leader and leader of the CPI group in the House and in that capacity became Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly as well.
He was twice elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar—in 1984 and 1990. In 1996 he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Madhubani, which at one time was called ‘little Moscow’ (Bhogendra Jha represented that constituency in the Lok Sabha for several terms). Thereafter he became the Union Agriculture Minister when the CPI, unlike the CPI-M, decided to join the Deve Gowda Government at the Centre (the other CPI Minister in Deve Gowda’s Cabinet was Indrajit Gupta who was entrusted with the Home portfolio).
After S.A. Dange relinquished the top post of the AITUC, Mishraji became the organisation’s President from 1983 to 1989. In that capacity he tried his level best to ensure the AITUC’s merger with the HMS (and in that he was fully supported by Indrajit Gupta, the legendary trade union leader of the country) but that was not to be due to ‘internal hindrances’ as he mentions in the interview. (Those hindrances came mainly from the pro-CPI-M section within the AITUC leadership for fear of the negative reaction from the CPI-M’s trade union wing, the CITU, which is rooted in sectarianism.) In contrast Mishraji was far more open and while pleading for Left and communist unity never took a sectarian position; like erstwhile CPI General Secretary Indrajit Gupta, he always kept the broad national picture in view. That is why he had no hesitation in acknowledging, as he does in the following interview, that “today civil rights activists like Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy etc. are raising their voice on issues that should be our concern”. He thought out of the box and wrote freely bringing into focus the national problems which, he was convinced, should be tackled by evolving a national perspective and outlook.
In 1996-98, the Communists in the Union Government played an outstanding role that is seldom recognised. While Indrajit Gupta emerged as the “best Home Minister this country has ever had”, an observation made by former PM I.K. Gujral, Mishraji as the Union Agriculture Minister pioneered such schemes as crop insurance, Kisan Credit Card and set up institutions like the Krishi Vigyan Kendra “to lift the status of agriculture”, as he describes in the following interview. But while doing so he was never oblivious of the necessity of people’s struggles to implement the schemes and projects meant for the toiling populace. Apart from being a tireless political worker, he was endowed with a clear vision of the future. He wrote extensively not just in party journals but in this weekly too. In fact he was a prolific writer and several of his articles appeared in Mainstream influencing the large band of its readers including such a personality as Justice Sukumaran who openly wrote from Thiruvananthapuram about this, warmly complimenting Mishraji that was duly conveyed to him.
Like Jagannath Sarkar, Yogendra Sharma, Indradeep Sinha, Bhogendra Jha, he had forged close relations with N.C., and had intimate ties with the Mainstream family. While offering our sincere homage to his abiding memory we are reproducing in the following pages the interview taken by Atul Kumar Thakur (that appeared in this journal last February) and two of his articles (which were published in Mainstream in 2010). S.C.

Monday, August 1, 2011

WFTU GS Com Mavrikos

Working Class Is Awakening the World Over

Rajiv Dimri interviewed George Mavrikos, General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions – WFTU, at the ILC.

Greece is witnessing a major upsurge at the present time. Can you tell us more about these movements of the Greek working class?
The Greek bourgeoisie, the social democrat government, and its allies the conservative party in cooperation with the EU, the IMF and the World Bank have unleashed an assault on the Greek working class on the pretext of the global capitalist crisis. A range of anti-labour laws are being introduced to curtail workers’ rights - regarding working hours, salaries, social security, pensions, and tax policy.
The Greek working class has been thwarting these moves. Last year, Panergatiko Agonistiko Metopo (PAME) – the All Workers’ Militant Front - organized more than 13 massive general strikes successfully. This year it continues to mobilize the working people and unite them with other progressive forces in a popular front against the anti-labour measures. The main slogan is: “We refuse to pay for their crisis, deficits and debts - those who created the crises should pay!” It is the plutocracy and its parties, PASOK (social democrats) and N.D. (conservatives) who are pushing for the anti-people measures.
The 16th World Trade Union Congress held at Athens in April this year turned into an international forum of solidarity with the Greek people.
What are the trends you see in the international working class movement today?
After WWII, a balance was created between the two sides, leading to a relatively favourable situation for the working people and their struggles. Today the current balance of forces is against the people and the workers.
But this year, we have nevertheless experienced great struggles in response to the global economic crisis. The world over, the ruling class is trying to force people to bear the burden of its crisis – and this has sparked off serious resistance in Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as in Mexico, and by immigrant workers in the US. Recently in Madison, Wisconsin, in the US, there was a significant battle by public employees fighting to defend their right to collective negotiations and their salaries.
What can we conclude from these developments? It is clear that major opportunities of empowerment and awakening for the working and the popular masses have been created. Class struggle is intensifying. The examples in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan etc. confirm this. The revolt of the people of Egypt, regardless of its future outcome, shows that people are the real protagonists of history.
These positive developments coexist with equally serious challenges. One serious challenge is the lack of unity and coordination between the leaderships of many trade unions at national level.
To exploit the new possibilities which are opening up, and for the movement to pass to another level of struggles, we need to critically assess all these developments and to devise effective tactics to eliminate the barriers in every country. We must learn from struggles of the past.
What is WFTU’s approach to the developments in the Arab world?
Workers and people of the Arab world are rising up against dictatorships which suppressed the people and stole their wealth. Poverty, unemployment, discrimination, lack of freedom is what these regimes brought to the working people. These regimes were also subject to imperialist powers led by the USA, which is pursuing its project of a “New Middle East”, aiming to divide the Arab people into conflicting states. Their main aim is to control petroleum and the natural resources of this region.
The multiple uprisings proved that the working class and the popular can shape their future. WFTU has always supported the unity of the Arab world. It has always supported the struggle of the Palestinians for a free and independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as Syria and Lebanon. It has always stood for the liberation of the occupied lands against Israeli occupation. We are against every imperialist intervention and invasion in Libya and Syria.
What is WFTU’s plan of action in the days to come?
WFTU held the historic 16th World Trade Union Congress at Athens in April. This was an open, democratic, internationalist and militant Congress with the participation of 828 delegates from 101 countries and 115 speakers.
The next big step will be the WFTU International Action Day on October 3, which coincides with the founding day of the WFTU on October 3, 1945. The key objectives of this Action are:
- 35 hours of work: i.e 7 hours per day and a 5-day working week, and better wages
- Public social security for all
- Collective bargaining, collective agreements
- Trade union and democratic freedoms
- Solidarity with the Palestinian people
The International Day of Action will mark the start of new protests against privatization and layoffs. It will mark the engagement of all social strata against the policies of the monopolies and multinationals.
What are WFTU’s proposals for democratizing the ILO?
The WFTU had been repeatedly demanding a change in the system of the elections for the Governing body of the ILO, in order to provide proportionate representation to all international organizations such as WFTU, ICATU, OATUU, ACFTU. WFTU demands that the monopoly of the International Labour Organisation by one organisation (ITUC) should stop, and all international trade union organisations be treated fairly, equitably and without any discrimination. The prevailing discrimination goes against the prestige of ILO and the credibility of its decisions.